Thinking about working with a remote team? We discuss the benefits, challenges and tools we use working within a remote team on a daily basis in this post.
Here at WP Elevation, we not only teach the benefits our members can gain from working with a remote team, but we are actively one ourselves. Every member of our team enjoys the benefits of a work-life balance enabled by flexible working hours and the opportunity to work in any location they choose. We enable this by constantly working on, and bettering our processes to enable it whilst maintaining productive, efficient work flows across different time zones.
In this video, Gin, our community manager, and I, coach Cath, discuss the benefits and challenges we’ve faced working within, and managing a remote team. Plus we give you a rapid-fire myth busting session and reveal some of the more 'controversial' preconceptions about working remotely, including that burning question - Do you ever work without pants?
Ain’t Got Time for Video? Here’s the Low Down:
Gin and I are probably in the midst of what is soon going to be the norm. We both work with a remote team, sometimes we get to jam with our colleagues in the flesh, but sometimes we’re rocking a flexible day juggling parenting, multiple business tasks, managing a team and delivering work all from the comfort of our own homes - and sometimes in our PJs.
This is the future man. Well, it’s actually the present. Working with a remote team is becoming more and more normal, and Gin and I learned a few things from each other just chatting about it. Here are a few of the more probing revelations:
How Do You Keep the Client Relationships Professional?
Keeping it professional is super important, and not all small business or even agency clients are used to this new remote version of a team. So examples of how to handle this in our businesses include
- Formally introducing clients via email, and getting the clients comfortable with new members of the team looking after their work.
- Celebrating team achievements in our newsletter and have them included on our team page.
- Including a bio of the key team members and their roles in our proposals and on the website.
Reality is, as long as you don’t make it sound like a hidden secret and you manage your clients expectations around who they’ll be communicating with, working with a remote team shouldn’t be any different to working with your local staff or service providers.
On a side note, when there are cultural diversities amongst the team, including them in the company profile and ensuring they feel as valued as any domestic team members can help them feel more valued and invested in the work they are producing.
There’s an App for That!
The Remote Team Productivity Tool Set
The new and the shiny, so very many tools, where do you start? Here’s the thing, you start with a business need. It doesn’t matter what the tool is, it has to add value. If it’s just shiny, you really need to evaluate if you need it. We’ve done lots of ‘evaluating’!
Here Are the Productivity Tools Both Our Teams Love and Use Daily:
Arguably one of the best applications currently available for remote teams, Slack allows any employer to have a virtual office in which to communicate with their workers by brainstorming new ideas, exchanging files, staying updated on the latest news, and much more. As a freelance web designer, it is vital to have a central place in which to exchange drafts of work with one another, and Slack gives employees the opportunity to virtually travel from office to office and leave input for one another to create the best product possible.
Other benefits of Slack include acting as an online water cooler, where team members can discuss a broad range of topics both related to work and not, resulting in a camaraderie similar to those experienced in real office settings. Should any problems ever arise, Slack provides the perfect forum to resolve issues and even schedule phone calls to directly tackle any conflicts or air out any disagreements.
Here's an example of one of Gin's recent posts from a weekend away, via the WP Elevation "Interesting" slack channel:
Another effective application that remote teams can utilize is Asana, which allows project managers to track assigned tasks and stay abreast of the latest news for all of its virtual employees. More of a project management tool, Asana offers great mobile apps and offers valuable assistance to smaller teams. Through this informal setting, Asana allows workers to notify co workers and keep in constant contact with their remote team. Price starts at free - and we’re not arguing with that!
If you’re a list person - you’re gonna love this. And even if you’re not - you might just. Getting your processes sorted is so important with a team, be it remote or otherwise. Process Street provides an easy way of collating, documenting and storing your business processes so that day Pat in the Philippines needs to do the boss' job while he’s out for a week watching his beloved football team lose… with Process Street, his ‘other’ team has got this!
Here's an example of part of WP Elevation's process for setting up Coaching Calls:
Collaborate effectively with your team any time, any place with Help Scout, which allows workers to communicate through other remote chat apps and give clients the assistance they need around the clock. With quick response times and support literally a click or text away, their features make coexisting with employees quick and easy.
Everything is in the cloud. And when you’re working with a remote team, the cloud is pretty much your deity. Google apps is an invaluable tool-set for allowing us consistency, reliability and productivity with our documents while we concentrate on sharing all the assets.
Incidentally, our friends over at Cloudwards.net recently published this comparison between various cloud storage services.
In a world where we see less faces, this cool little number from zoom.us is a lightweight app that packs a punch! Video conferencing hasn’t been easier or cheaper, and when you need to record those meetings for future reference, or for documenting a process for your remote team to replicate, zoom is a neat and fuss-free tool.
What Are the Biggest Challenges Working With a Remote Team?
Managing the moving parts of any team or project is a challenge, and with a remote team, it has it’s own complications. One of the biggest is staying organized and making sure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
Communication and organization are key, without these, everything falls apart. Even as the manager, you need focus and discipline to make sure your teams have everything they need to keep the jobs flowing.
Another challenge is managing everyone’s time efficiently and making sure the jobs are being delivered to your business’s standards. You need to keep deliverables in focus and check in with people on a regular basis.
Personally, the hardest bit I find is on-boarding - the period where you’re introducing a new team member to your workflow, processes and expectations. There is always an allowance while they learn the ropes which often means me jumping back on the tools for a while.
How Do You Keep Everyone Accountable?
This will vary from team to team. Both Gin and I agree that weekly team meetings, monthly coaches meetings, Asana tasks, daily chats on Slack with who ever it is you’re overseeing - basically trying to simulate a face to face working environment as closely as possible when it comes to communication.
Goal setting and incentivizing is important too; WP Elevation will set goals for each team member to assist with team productivity and accountability.
And Just for Fun, a Few Myths Got Busted (or Did They?)
Cake Day! How Do You Celebrate Team Success, Birthdays Etc?
When there is no opportunity to give someone a hug, a ‘friendly punch in arm’ (is this just an Aussie thing??) or a badly sung rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ followed by cake, just how do you acknowledge a birthday in an authentic and appreciative way: A DAY OFF says Gin. Enough said. Putting it in my calendar from now on.
Alternately, getting the inside scoop on the best delivered services in the local area for your team members and surprising them with a gift, a thank you or a team-shouted meal doesn’t go astray either.
Have You Ever Worked Without Wearing Pants?
I’ll answer for myself here Yup! - you’ll have to watch the video for more insight on that particular question!
Naps During Work Hours?
Again, personally - Guilty! But, I do work damn hard, and sometimes at odd hours, so I think that more than makes up for it.
It’s a Wrap!
I really hope we’ve given a little bit of insight as to what it’s like working with a remote team, and maybe helped you identify some ideas you can adapt as you are scaling your own business.
We’d love to hear any stories, wins, or challenges you face in your own remote team management, or if you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer.
Hit us up in the comments below.